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After Obi-Wan Kenobi: The case for a Darth Vader Star Wars series

Lucasfilm’s Obi-Wan Kenobi Disney+ series has wrapped its six-episode run and put the titular Jedi Master on one more collision course with the galactic horseman of the apocalypse that is Darth Vader. Part VI of the series fittingly ended the series on a dramatic, emotional, and cathartic close between the two before their final bout in A New Hope. But, how well-orchestrated their last fight in Obi-Wan Kenobi was could be telling for a Star Wars show focused on the Sith Lord’s exploits.

How Disney was surprisingly willing to show Vader’s unfiltered rage and the visceral momentum of the armor-clad villain in action could be a great opportunity for Lucasfilm to show a solo series that shows a side of the Force that hasn’t been explored too deeply on-screen.

The Great Jedi Purge

Darth Vader igniting his lightsaber in Obi-Wan Kenobi.

There’s plenty that Lucasfilm can do with the vast Star Wars timeline, and while developing a Darth Vader-led TV series would admittedly continue beating the dead horse that is the gaps between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, it would also be an exciting way to embrace a bit more of the Dark Side of the Force. Vader has long since transcended pop culture media to become one of the most iconic villains ever, and a show with him as an unconventional protagonist would be — in a way — an exciting “new” spin on what the studio typically develops with the IP.

With Obi-Wan Kenobi taking place 10 years after the events of RotS and ANH taking place another nine years after that, a hypothetical Darth Vader Star Wars series could position itself on either side of the show but be able to use the same core premise. After the Empire established its galaxy-wide vice grip and enacted Order 66, it officially ushered in the age of the Great Jedi Purge, with none other than Vader leading the hunt.

Whether it’s the nine years before or the nine years after the freshly concluded series, there are plenty of gritty exploits to write for the villain. Supplemental materials in the Star Wars franchise have firmly established that there were just enough Jedi runaways following Order 66 to generate compelling storylines, making it not that farfetched to be able to do that again within the context of a TV series.

One of the shocking things about Darth Vader’s role in Obi-Wan Kenobi was how far Disney was willing to show the Sith Lord quite literally walk down the street killing people in the most brutal ways. While an entire show couldn’t — or shouldn’t — be pure violence for the sake of shock value, it did show audiences that Lucasfilm might have more creative wiggle room in depicting an outright villain than we might think.

Vader sitting on his throne in Fortress Vader in Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Similarly, gone are the days of the stiff technology required for Vader’s suit on set, as Hayden Christensen did an exceptional job portraying how physical and kinetic the villain is in combat. Kudos especially go to Christensen and the action choreographers in the climactic fight in Part VI, which showcased the fallen Jedi in all his terrible glory.

On a more nuanced level, and particularly in scenes with Obi-Wan, Darth Vader’s darker psychology was fleshed out more in live-action since the original trilogy. In Obi-Wan Kenobi, Vader was perhaps the most vengeful and emotionally vulnerable we’ve ever seen him, and it could make for compelling serialized storytelling to give audiences a closer look at the cracks that would eventually lead to his break and redemption in Return of the Jedi.

Vader’s final scene in Obi-Wan Kenobi with Emperor Palpatine suggested this even more clearly, with the former showing his emotions become increasingly more unstable even by Sith standards, while the latter outright suggests he might be unfit for duty because of this. It’s a small sign, but it would develop 19 years later when he finally destroyed the Emperor (or so we thought) and redeemed himself in his son’s eyes.

Marvel’s Darth Vader comic books

Comic book cover art of Darth Vader striking down a Rebel soldier.

Coincidentally enough, comic books are another viable source of reference material for how effective a story like this could be. Accomplished industry writers like Kieron Gillen (The Wicked + The Divine, Uncanny X-Men), Greg Pak (X-MenPlanet Hulk), and Charles Soule (DaredevilStar Wars: Light of the Jedi) have lent their talents to runs on Marvel Comics’ Darth Vader comic books, with each providing something interesting to say psychologically about the character along with compelling story arcs and conflicts.

And with Soule in particular, he recently revealed that he’s now officially a Creative Consultant for Lucasfilm. If not being put directly in a writers’ room for a Darth Vader Disney+ series, his creative guidance, given his hands-on experience writing the character in comics, could prove valuable in translating this success from the page to the screen.

Cover art for the Darth Vader comic series with the villain surrounded by lightsaber wielders.

Of course, an admitted challenge to this would be to not be derivative of what Soule, Gillen, and more’s comics already told. The aforementioned gaps both before and after Obi-Wan Kenobi could perhaps give room for an original story, but another option could be (partially) adapting the comic book source material.

Marvel’s current line of Star Wars comics since Disney acquired George Lucas’ IP are firmly canon to the main timeline, so while breaking canon would reasonably be out of the question, weaving original stories with adaptations of moments from the comics could simultaneously justify a Vader series while respecting the various comic book writers’ published work.

Dave Filoni spearheading animation

Darth Vader wielding his lightsaber and using the Force in Star Wars: Rebels.

One alternative or compromise over live-action — and one that might prove easier to get greenlit — is to make an animated Darth Vader series. The general public expectedly thinks of Star Wars as a primarily live-action and theatrical franchise, but the likes of Dave Filoni planted their flag on the sci-fi fantasy epic with beloved shows like The Clone Wars and Rebels.

These shows were credited with retroactively providing the prequel trilogy with much-needed context and complementary stories that have helped contribute to the movies’ resurgence in popularity. Darth Vader himself featured in Rebels and was just as imposing a figure as fans would expect from him in live-action.

Filoni’s work hasn’t gone unnoticed, as he’s since taken up a higher role within Lucasfilm and had creative direction in Disney+’s acclaimed The Mandalorian and will have a hand alongside Jon Favreau in 2023’s Ahsoka series.

As far as the voice behind the mask goes, as great as it would be to have Christensen continue his comeback and get more of those brief yet gripping scenes outside the helmet, actor Matt Lanter has more than proven his mettle in the recording studio and has become a fan-favorite for Anakin Skywalker’s portrayal in The Clone Wars.

At some point, growing past the Skywalker legacy will be in Lucasfilm’s best interest to take Star Wars forward. However, in the meantime, embracing the Dark Side of the Force with Darth Vader might be one more way to make the saga worth revisiting.

All six episodes of Obi-Wan Kenobi are available to stream now on Disney+. To find out about more content to watch on the app, take a  look at our list of what’s new on Disney+.

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